Republic of Costa Rica
President: Laura Chinchilla (2010)
Land area: 19,560 sq mi (50,660 sq km);
total area: 19,730 sq mi (51,100 sq km)
Population (2012 est.): 4,636,348
(growth rate: 1.29%); birth rate: 16.4/1000; infant mortality rate:
9.2/1000; life expectancy: 77.89; density per sq km: 82
Capital and largest city (2009 est.):
San José, 1,416,
Monetary unit: Colón
National name: República de
Current government officials
Spanish (official), English
white (including mestizo) 94%, black 3%,
Amerindian 1%, Chinese 1%, other 1%
Independence Day, September 15
Roman Catholic 76%, Evangelical 14%, Jehovah's
Witnesses 1%, other Protestant 1%, other 5%, none 3%
Literacy rate: 94.9% (2011 est.)
Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2011
est.): $54.47 billion; per capita $11,500. Real growth rate:
–4%. Inflation: 5.3%. Unemployment: 6.5%.
Arable land: 4%. Agriculture: coffee, pineapples,
bananas, sugar, corn, rice, beans, potatoes; beef; timber. Labor
force: 2.155 million; agriculture 20%, industry 22%, services 58%
(1999 est.). Industries: microprocessors, food processing,
textiles and clothing, construction materials, fertilizer, plastic
products. Natural resource: hydropower. Exports:
$10.77 billion (2011 est.): coffee, bananas, sugar, pineapples;
textiles, electronic components, medical equipment. Imports:
$15.08 billion (2011 est.): raw materials, consumer goods, capital
equipment, petroleum. Major trading partners: U.S.,
Netherlands, Guatemala, Japan, Mexico, Brazil (2004).
Communications: Telephones: main lines
in use: 1.482 million (2011); mobile cellular: 3,035,000 (2011).
Radio broadcast stations: AM 65, FM 51, shortwave 19 (2002).
Television broadcast stations: 20 (plus 43 repeaters) (2002).
Internet hosts: 146,164 (2012). Internet users: 1,485,000
Transportation: Railways: total: 278 km
(2011). Highways: total: 38,049 km; (2011). Waterways: 730 km (seasonally navigable by
small craft) (2004). Ports and harbors: Caldera, Puerto
Limon. Airports: 151 (2011 est.).
International disputes: legal dispute
over navigational rights of Rio San Juan on the border with
Nicaragua remains unresolved.
Major sources and definitions
This Central American country lies between
Nicaragua to the north and Panama to the south. Its area slightly exceeds
that of Vermont and New Hampshire combined. It has a narrow Pacific
coastal region. Cocos Island (10 sq mi; 26 sq km), about 300 mi (483 km)
off the Pacific Coast, is under Costa Rican sovereignty.
Costa Rica was inhabited by an estimated 400,000
Indians when Columbus explored it in 1502. The Spanish conquest began in
1524. The region grew slowly and was administered as a Spanish province.
Costa Rica achieved independence in 1821 but was absorbed for two years by
Agustín de Iturbide in his Mexican empire. It became a republic in
1848. Except for the military dictatorship of Tomás Guardia from
1870 to 1882, Costa Rica has enjoyed one of the most democratic
governments in Latin America.
In the 1970s, rising oil prices, falling
international commodity prices, and inflation hurt the economy. Efforts
have since been made to reduce reliance on coffee, banana, and beef
exports. Tourism is now a major business. Óscar Arias
Sánchez worked to simultaneously heal his country's economic woes and foster peace in Central America.
José Maria Figueres Olsen of the National
Liberation Party became president in 1994. He opposed economic suggestions
made by the International Monetary Fund, instead favoring greater
government intervention in the economy. The World Bank subsequently
withheld $100 million of financing. In 1998, Miguel Angel Rodríguez
of the Social Christian Unity Party became president, pledging economic
reforms, such as privatization. In 2000, Costa Rica and Nicaragua resolved
a long-standing dispute over navigation of the San Juan River, which forms
their shared border. A psychiatrist, Abel Pacheco, also of the Social Christian
Unity Party, won the presidency in elections held in April 2002. In May
2003, several national strikes took place, by energy and
telecommunications workers over privatization and by teachers over their
Nobel Peace Prize Winner Again Gains Presidency
Costa Rica has a reputation as one of the most
stable, prosperous, and least corrupt Latin American countries. But in
fall 2004, three former Costa Rican presidents (José Maria Figueres
Olsen, Miguel Angel Rodríguez, and Rafael Angel Calderon) were
investigated on corruption charges. In 2006, Óscar Arias Sánchez was elected president. Arias, who had served as president once before
(1986–1990), won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987 for fostering peace
talks that eventually ended the civil wars in El Salvador and
The Costa Rican government
voted in November 2008 to implement the Central American Free Trade Agreement that voters had approved in October 2007.
In February 2010, Laura Chinchilla became the country's first woman to be elected president, taking 47% of the vote. She's a protegé of outgoing centrist president Oscar Arias.
See also Encyclopedia: Costa Rica
U.S. State Dept. Country Notes:
National Institute of Statistics and Censuses (In
Spanish Only) http://www.inec.go.cr/
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